Position Statement

Quality footpaths: Pedestrian infrastructure that encourages people to walk

Walking SA’s vision is to see more people walking more often.

Walking SA advocates for pedestrian safety, and the maintenance of safe and supportive walking environments throughout South Australia.

Walking SA encourages Councils to improve walking conditions in urban areas, initially by ensuring that their facilities for walking meet engineering standards.

Call to action

We need a pedestrian environment that encourages and not discourages people to walk to local destinations. Footpaths are fundamental to people’s ability to walk about in urban areas including to and from public transport. The quality of the pedestrian environment indicates much we value walking in our society. Indeed, it is a key marker on how civilized and sophisticated a society is.

What is the problem?

While many have of South Australia’s urban areas have reasonable quality footpaths (sometimes the quality is excellent) shortcomings are common:

  • residential streets designed for 50km/h having a footpath on one side of the road only, requiring people to cross the road to access a footpath despite a lack of safe crossing opportunities
  • narrow paths force people to walk single file while “shared use” paths are too narrow for both pedestrians and cyclists
  • trip hazards created by tree roots and ground movement lifting pavers
  • poor maintenance, particular of neighbouring vegetation, narrows the effective footpath width for walking
  • sandwich boards, outdoor dining etc. that reduce pedestrians to single file
  • street lights directed to the roadway only, leaving footpaths in the dark
  • blank walls and fences that created at best boring and at worst hostile walking environments
  • cross-falls that hurt ankles, are unpassable by people with joint replacements and similar mobility constraints and skew the direction of
    wheelchairs and strollers – forcing the latter onto the roadway
  • poor or no kerb ramps, making footpaths inaccessible to people who rely on mobility aids and making walking difficult for people using strollers
  • long detours created by gaps and barriers in the path network, sometimes due to natural features such as creeks but more often caused by railways and major roads featuring few safe crossing opportunities
  • pedestrian signals often feature slow response times, insufficient green time for crossing and – for crosswalks at intersections – crossing of unsignalised slip lanes and multi-stage crossings that compound delays

What should be done

If the State government wants to see more people getting physical exercise, it needs to ensure that its infrastructure doesn’t create barriers to walking – the most frequent physical activity undertaken by our population. Safe, frequent and good quality crossings are necessary for railways, waterways and main roads. These include median refuges, crosswalks at traffic signals and mid-block pedestrian actuated crossings designed to cater for pedestrian needs, not around maintaining traffic flow.

But while the State government can help with funding and has care and control of traffic signals, most of the responsibility to provide for better footpaths lies with local councils.

In meeting their responsibilities, Councils are aided by planning guidance and engineering standards.

The Australian Standard 1428.1 Design for Access and Mobility and Austroads’ Road Design Part 6a: Pedestrian and Cyclist Paths instruct Councils as to the minimum standards expected. There are “let out” clauses in the event that topography, space available, cost etc. make complying with the standards an unreasonable hardship. Councils can be liable in the court if not meeting the engineering standards contributes to physical injury. Despite this, it appears from results on the ground that those building and maintaining footpaths, kerb ramps etc. are not meeting these standards.

Walking SA will be making Councils aware of their obligations and encourages the State government and people in the community to do so as well. We will encourage local residents to audit the quality of the footpaths where they live. We will promote creative ways of dealing with problems such as a lack of space, legacy trees imposing on footpaths, etc.

South Australia has produced the Streets for People, a compendium of South Australian practice to show what Councils can aspire to. This is designed to encourage practitioners to consider other ways to achieve desired objectives. For example in older suburbs where the road reserve is so narrow that there is not space for good footpaths, or for short cul-de-sacs used by few cars for local access, it may be possible to designate the whole street into a shared space, with low speeds keeping pedestrians safe. Here, the assistance of State government is needed to allow and even facilitate Councils to use design that currently lies outside of established South Australian practice.

Beyond being legally compliant, both Councils and State government should aspire to making the environment delightful for walking, with beautiful streetscapes, interesting features along the way and opportunities to interact with locals and contribute to their local neighbourhood. Walking SA will highlight local examples that can inspire us to provide a local environment that builds better health, a more pleasant neighbourhood and stronger communities.

For more information contact:

Sharon Kelsey, Executive Director
Walking SA

Position statement as at August 2018.


Example of Poor pedestrian cross-fall, Athelstone

Poor pedestrian cross-fall, Athelstone

Example of Hedge over the path, Joslin

Hedge over the path, Joslin

Example of Poor pedestrian conditions, Maylands

Poor pedestrian conditions, Maylands

Example of Sign blocking path, Field Street, Adelaide

Sign blocking path, Field Street, Adelaide

Example of Poor footpath maintenance, Bowden

Poor footpath maintenance, Bowden

Example of Kerb ramp without wings, Norwood

Kerb ramp without wings, Norwood

From SA Planning’s Residential Design Guide

From SA Planning’s Residential Design Guide

Good design: wombat crossing, Hahndorf

Good design: wombat crossing, Hahndorf

Example of Well-kept hedge, Maylands

Well-kept hedge, Maylands

Osmond Grove, Toorak Gardens

Osmond Grove, Toorak Gardens

Richmond Street, Kensington

Richmond Street, Kensington

Cambridge Street, Malvern

Cambridge Street, Malvern


  1. Economic analysis suggests that the benefits of a typical walking or riding infrastructure project include:
    • decongestion (20.7 cents per kilometre),
    • health (up to 168 cents per kilometre),
    • vehicle operating costs (35.0 cents per kilometre),
    • infrastructure savings (6.8 cents per kilometre) and
    • environment (5.9 cents per kilometre).
  2. A study commissioned by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads in 2011 found that, for a typical off road path located in an inner urban area:
  3. Melbourne’s VISTA surveys have found that half of all trips are less than 4.2 kms.
    2013 Travel in metropolitan Melbourne
  4. All images except “From SA Planning’s Residential Design Guide “ supplied by Ian Radbone may be freely copied